These are all things that Victor has experienced, and though he has shown us he understands these are blessings, he has not recognized his privilege. He does not realize that it was the arrogance of this privilege that caused him to bring life to the Creature in the first place, but also the arrogance that caused him to immediately run and disown the result, shirking his responsibility.
The Creature shares Victor’s own feelings which he expressed earlier as he climbed the glacier. That mankind’s pain comes from wanting more beyond survival; that though these characteristics allegedly make man superior to animals, they preclude happiness.
This is the second reference Shelley makes to the mistreatment of Native Americans in the New World. (“…[I]f no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections…America would have been discovered more gradually….” It stands out to me because, as an American, I’ve rarely seen these sentiments expressed before the last few decades. This was written about 40 years since American independence, so I wonder if there was still quite a lot of resentment in British society manifesting itself here as reprobation. After all, Britain had an empire itself that was not exactly guiltless of similar behavior (and the “American” perpetrators were themselves British at the time!). But maybe Shelley felt Britain-proper’s methods of conquest or even violence were less bloodthirsty and brutish. Or maybe Shelley really did find it repugnant without qualification, and maybe Britain as a whole had regretted that era for some time, though the “small pox blanket” incident was only 50 years prior. (I do realize that the Spanish, French, and Dutch were accomplices.) You could argue that Britain (Victor) was America’s (Creature) creator, and now has the gall to finds its visage repulsive despite being the author of its character by abuse and neglect, just like Victor. Any experts to weigh in here?
The Creature purposefully prides himself in learning language far more quicker than the Arabian. I believe he does this in order to perhaps change Victor’s judgment of the Creature in hopes that Victor may show him kindness and amity. It is an attempt to produce the message that although he may be a creature, he is not only superior in strength and height, however, he is also superior in knowledge and learning. Although by Chapter VIII we are told the Creature’s true feelings of bitterness and hatred towards his Creator, the Creature still has reason to claim his superiority as he needs Victor in order to create another being like himself.
There is a recurring theme of discovering the unknown throughout the book. At the beginning there was a major contrast between the creation’s view and Frankenstein’s view. Meanwhile Frankenstein believed discovery was a negative thing that lead to his misery, his creation only had positive outcomes and didn’t have a bad view like him. The words discovered and observed are repeated constantly throughout the chapter. “I discovered the names that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse. I learned and applied the words, fire, milk, bread, and wood. I also learned the names of the cottagers themselves.”(Chapter 4) Eventually, both Frankenstein and his creature believe knowledge has led to their sorrows. “I tried to dispel them, but sorrow only increased with knowledge… Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind, when it has once seized on it, like a lichen on rock. I wished sometimes to shake off all thought and feeling;” (Chapter 5)
Towards the beginning of the book, Victor claims that, when making the creature he had to make it big not only to make it more superior, but also because it would have been more difficult to experiment on anything smaller. With this in mind, does the creature also have a big or enlarged brain? If it was enlarged, how was Victor capable of enlarging it?
Mary cautions against Victor’s myopic perspective that creation—bringing into existence—is all that matters. The creature is made but un-parented, forced into solitary life, and exiled from mainstream society. In his treatment of the creature, Victor shows no concern for social development, the human need for acceptance, and the importance of memory and shared experiences to the creature’s initial and eventual selfhood and well-being. Although Victor later recognizes his younger self in Henry Clerval’s desire for knowledge, a sign of Victor’s own concrete identity, he fails to use any understanding of this self-recognition in his creation. This episode helps us reflect on the idea that scientific discovery and creation are fully value laden, and bound up in the assumptions and guiding philosophies of the scientists who discover and create.
These musings from Victor’s creation invite us to consider what or who determines our self-identity. Do we determine our own ideas of identity? Or do others—family, friends, general society, or a creator—determine them? The creature’s social interactions leave him without sympathy from the members of any of these categories, and thus he struggles to understand who or what he is and what his role in life is. Developmental psychologist Erik Eriksen (1902–1994) theorized that identity or our consciousness of self forms in eight stages by evolving through our social interactions. The creature’s questions model Eriksen’s adolescent stage of asking questions such as “Who am I?” and “What can I be?” by comparing self to others. It is especially poignant that Mary leaves the creature without a name for the duration of the book. His namelessness further highlights the fact that he has no clear identity and no good way to define one.
The creature recounts how his life differs from normal human life. In future narratives, writers directly confront what Mary here only touches upon lightly with allusions to slavery, ownership, and property: that the creature might be “owned” by his creator or that he might be the subject of a patent or that Victor might seek to monetize his investment of time and effort or that his secrecy and obsession are in part motivated by greed as well as a desire for fame and glory.
Scientists have long aspired to improve the human body, or create new bodies, to exceed our natural biological limits. The United States military pursues a range of research areas to enhance the performance of soldiers, from powered exoskeletons granting their users superhuman strength to direct brain interfaces that would allow pilots to fly aircraft by thought alone. More broadly, almost all biomedical technologies can be seen as serving the same purpose, from contact lenses and pacemakers that regulate and improve the function of our organs to antibiotics that make us far more resistant to disease. Many people feel that our bodies’ greatest flaw is aging and death. Philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have invested billions of dollars to eliminate disease and extend human life. Ongoing scientific debates about life extension sometimes echo the quest for the philosopher’s stone as researchers contemplate how the human body might be sustained or rejuvenated through genetic modification, personalized drug cocktails, or other means.
Humanity’s technological obsession with overcoming our biological limits has a natural parallel in science fiction. Mary’s vision of a superhuman creature inspired many others, from comic book superheroes to the robots and replicants populating movies like The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984), Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), and Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015). These stories ask many of the same questions posed in Frankenstein: what would a perfected human form really be like? What kind of life would such a creature lead? What consequences would result from a world in which humans and superhumans coexist?
Much of the novel is inspired by the writings of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), who believed that humans in their natural state are good and that society corrupts them. Like Rousseau’s character Emile (Rousseau  1979), the creature learns from his environment and only slowly is introduced to society. Whether governments and laws can maintain order or are part of the social ill remains an unanswered question. The two trial scenes in the novel, Justine’s and later Victor’s, serve as examples of the problems of mobs and the difficulties of attaining justice. It was common during this period to see humans as a link in the “great chain of being”: we can climb as high as angels or slip lower than animals on this chain through our moral choices.